Good Luck Flag also known as hinomaru yosegaki in Japan. The Japanese call their country's flag hinomaru. In the Japanese language, hi- means "sun," no- means "is," and -maru means "round." Translated literally this means, "The sun is round." This describes the commonly seen solid white flag with large, round, red center disc. When the hinomaru has been signed with Japanese characters or ideograms on and around the red center, this is called hinomaru yosegaki. Broken into its component parts, yose- means "sideways, and -gaki means "to write." In other words, this phrase menas, "To write sideways around the red sun." This is exactly what is described when one looks at a good luck flag; a white flag with a red sun near the center of the field that has sideways writing going around it. The hinomaru yosegaki was traditionally presented to a man prior to his induction into the Japanese armed forces or before being sent off to fight. Generally, relatives, neighbors and/or co-workers of the person receiving the flag would write their names, good luck messages, exultations, etc. upon the field of the flag to remind the soldier, sailor or airman to do well in battle. The writing usually flowed out sideways in a rayed pattern away from the red sun. Characters may be seen going in many directions, however. Some flags have so many signatures and slogans added to them that the characters were placed wherever the well-wisher could find the room! When studying good luck flags, the observer may commonly see larger, dark characters placed horizontally across the top of the flag and vertically down the right or left hand side. Normally, some kind of exultation such as Buun Chokyu is written across the top within the white field. Loosely translated into English, Buun Chokyu means "May your military fortunes be long lasting." Dark, medium sized characters may normally be seen that run vertically down the right or left hand margin of the flag. These usually occur in one, two or three columns and are generally the names of the man receiving the flag and the name of the individual or organization presenting the gift to him. While it may be said that the ideograms are written, they are in fact, placed upon the material using a fude or brush and ink. In addition, while it is was the custom to only sign around the red center of the flag, some examples may be found with characters written upon the red center as well. When the custom of writing on flags began is up for debate. Some sources indicate that signed flags became part of the military man's off-to-war gear, along with a senninbari during the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895.) Any good luck flags that pre-date the Manchurian Incident (1931) should be considered rare. It is generally agreed that most hinomaru yosegaki seen today come from just before or during the period of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945.) For the military man stationed far away from home and loved ones, the hinomaru yosegaki offered communal hopes and prayers to the owner every time the flag was unfolded. It was believed that the flag with its many signatures and slogans of good luck, would provide a combined force or power to see its owner through tough times. Furthermore, it reminded him in a material way to do his duty. The performance of that duty meant that the warrior was not expected to return home from battle. Great honor was brought upon the family of those whose sons, husbands, brothers and fathers died in the service of country and Emperor. The belief of self-sacrifice was a central one within Japanese culture and was much exalted during World War Two. Culturally, the Japanese believed that in doing one's duty, the soldier, sailor or airman must offer up his life freely to the Emperor just as the cherry blossoms fall freely from the tree at the height of their beauty. As part of the samurai or bushido code, this worldview was brought forward into twentieth century Japan from the old warring days of feudal Japan.
Imperial Japanese Good Luck Flags and One-Thousand Stitch Belts by Dr. Michael A. Bortner, 2008, Schiffer Military Books, ISBN 978-0-7643-2927-2